Jim Siergey: There & Back

June 22nd, 2018

My, how quickly things can go from good to bad and back to good again. All in one morning, even.

On this particular morning I awoke, showered, breakfasted and then tended to a chore that turned out to be much easier to accomplish than expected.

That doesn’t happen very often so when it does, I take note and extend my full appreciation to whatever cosmic entity or good vibrations that caused it to turn out that way.

With that taken care of, I decided to take my first walk in Munster.

Most of my activity in my new surroundings so far has been unpacking boxes, flattening boxes, going up and down stairs, looking for things, arranging and rearranging things and, of course, mowing the lawns.

That and driving back and forth from Chicago where I repeated the same operations, had been the extent of my physical activity.

I put on some clean clothes, tied my shoes, settled a chapeau upon my head and walked out the door.

Several blocks away was a convenience store called “The Little Store”, which I had passed several times in my car. In front of the store was a mail box. That postal orifice was my goal as I had something to mail.

While there I intended to buy a Sun-Times so I could do the Friday crossword puzzle.

While living in Chicago we had both papers delivered and I enjoyed doing the Friday and Saturday Sun-Times puzzles, as they were the most difficult ones of the week. But here in Northwest Indiana we no longer received a newspaper and I missed the weekend challenges that those collection of black and white squares posed.


I’m Mr. Happy!


It was a lovely day for a stroll and it took less time to reach the place than I expected, about five minutes. So, there and back I went.

In my book, it had been a very nice little morning. So far.

Before turning to my puzzle, I turned on the internet and discovered that no matter what I clicked on I received a window telling me that it was important to contact AT&T, my internet provider.

We all know the hell of listening to robotic voices and climbing the branches of phone trees and being on hold. My call to AT&T was no different.

Ultimately I learned that my service had been suspended for non-payment of my bill. I knew that I paid the bill late but it was paid and the payment had been sent in weeks earlier.

The next hour consisted of me making calls back and forth to my bank and AT&T. This, of course, included me shouting and cursing and calling the robotic voices all kinds of horrendous names which, of course, had no effect on those cold, numb machines.

However, it did have an effect on me. I changed from a happy fellow whistling a happy tune as I happily looked forward to sitting in the back yard with a cup of coffee in one hand and a sharpened #2 Ticonderoga in the other as I happily battled wits with Will Shortz to a foul-mouthed, raspy-voiced, haggard semi-being nearing the end of his rope surrounded with bill statements covered with impatient doodles as Hold Music played, interrupted now and then by an automated voice telling me that everyone was too busy to answer my very important call.

Jean-Paul Sartre said that “Hell is other people.” I’d like to update that to automated people.

I finally connected with someone who actually cared enough to go to some lengths to find the snafu. Jerry was his name. Thanks, pal.

I had paid the bill via online banking but I paid it into my Chicago account and not the new Munster one. Jerry tracked it down and fixed it. It still took me three phone transfers before I got to the correct party who re-installed my internet access.

I am a creature of careening mood swings. As quickly as I had gone from happy fellow to mad man I turned back into Mr. Happy as I picked up the Times and the Ticonderoga and set out to fulfill my much-delayed plan for the morning (which had now neared noon).

All’s well that ends well but I think I may switch from online back to stamps.


Editor’s note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Mr. Suburbia



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Randolph Street: The Bluest Dog

June 20th, 2018

No one captures blue like the great Jon Randolph…


1StreetkidsSStreet Kids–Guatemala City


2TableRestaurant–Quiche, Guatemala


3IMG0017Blue Dog–Nebaj, Guatemala


4IMG0005aTwo Girls–Xecotz, Guatemala


5BoyScan3-2bbfinalStreet Vendor–Guatemala City


All photos © Jon Randolph


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Letter from Milo: Penny Pinching

June 18th, 2018

Like the rest of the USA and the world, my family has been affected by the “Big Meltdown,” a term I prefer to recession or depression. My wife and I are both self-employed and we hit the financial bust-out perfecta. She’s in real estate and I’m in advertising. You know what happened to the real estate business, and the ad business is not far behind, especially when several of your clients are also real estate agencies.

A lot of our recent family discussions have been about ways to cut spending. We include our two daughters, 16 and 21, in these discussions because we figure it’s important that they understand the rotten financial situation we’re in. Not much gets settled at these family round tables, but at least everyone gets a chance to voice an opinion and present money saving ideas.

Mom: How about we cut out cable TV?

Kid 1: (Indignantly) No way. I’m not giving up MTV.

Dad: (Also indignant) I can’t believe you’re asking me to give up watching the Bulls.

Mom: What if we sell one of the cars?

Kid 2: You can’t be serious. Do you really expect me to ride the el and buses everywhere I go?

Dad: (Reasonably) Now, now. Let’s not get upset. We’re simply discussing options.

Kid 1: Here’s an option. Why don’t you and Mom quit drinking so much wine?

Dad: (Angrily) Don’t be a wiseass.

Mom: Ungrateful brat.

Kid 2: Now who’s upset?

Dad: Let’s all calm down. (Pathetic attempt at humor) Here’s an idea. Let’s sell the cat and dog to the Korean restaurant down the street.

Mom: (Aghast) That’s a horrible thing to say.

Kid 1: That’s not even close to funny, Dad. It’s just gross.

Dad: Just lightening the mood, trying to make everyone feel better.

Kid 2: Want to make us all feel better? Quit smoking. What do cigarettes cost anyway?

Dad: (Grumbling and obscenities)

In the end, we came up with a money saving solution that satisfied almost everyone. Dad got taken off of the health insurance policy. Being self-employed, we pay for health insurance out of our pockets, a little over $800 a month. That’s a lot of money right now or any other time. By removing me from the policy we save nearly four hundred a month.

Fortunately, I have a health insurance option. As a veteran of the United States Army, I’m entitled to care and treatment at any veteran’s hospital in the country. It’s one of the perks of having risked life, limb, and sanity for my country. The only problem is that veterans’ hospitals are not considered to be in the top echelon of medical facilities. I can see the conversation with my doctor.

Me: I need brain surgery, Doc.

Doc: That’s too bad.

Me: And I need a septuple heart bypass.

Doc: That’s a shame.

Me: What’s the prognosis?

Doc: Dude, you’re probably gonna die.

The good thing, however, is that VA doctors are experienced in dealing with traumatic injuries. So if I get shot or stabbed or step on a land mine in Lincoln Park, I’ll be in good hands.

I’m going down to the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center on South Damen Avenue next week to register in the system. I’ll bring along my discharge papers and my good conduct medal and my dog-eared copy of the US Army Survival Manual, just in case things get rough. I’ll let you know what happens.

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Jim Siergey: Mr. Suburbia

June 17th, 2018

It’s only been a month since I altered my existence from a long-time urban resident to one in a small town and, to my amazement, I find myself becoming more of a suburbanite with every passing minute.

Allow me to elucidate by using lawns and lawn care as an initial f’r instance.

When I lived in the city I could care less about lawns. In fact, if I may use a British vernacular, I couldn’t give a sod. When the grass got noticeably long, I’d raise my eyes skyward, sigh and haul out my manually operated push mower and spend up to fifteen minutes giving the lawn a trim.

Two or three weeks later I would repeat the process and continue to do so until the eighth month of the Julian calendar rolled around. The grass begins to turn a yellowish brown and doesn’t grow very fast in late summer so I did no mo’ mowin’ in August.

Now that I live in a suburban-like small town setting, I have attained lawn-consciousness. For one thing, my lawn, both in front and back, is much larger than what I had in Chicago. In fact, I call it the Front and Back 40. There is so much lawn to mow that I cannot tend to both in the same day.

The nearly constant sounds of neighbors’ lawn mowers surround me so I find myself mulling over mowing more often than I thought humanly possible. I find that I’m obsessing over a different kind of grass than I used to and, pardon my faux Cole Porter but, I get no kick out of it.


Am I losing my mind?


I’m just cutting it, though. I’m not doing any edging or weeding or any of that kind of stuff…yet.

I have become so lawn-conscious that when I saw this photo of Trump and Kim Jong-un walking together, my first thought was “Trump trusts this guy to denuclearize? He can’t even keep his lawn mowed!”

Egad! What has become of me?

Another clue that suburbanization has taken effect is the fact that I haven’t had to parallel park for weeks! I used to pride myself on my parallel parking prowess but there’s no need for it out here. Besides there being mini-malls galore I have a driveway and a garage.

No longer must I go on hunting expeditions for a parking space.

Living in the city, one accepts the heavy traffic as part of the deal. The existence of plodding traffic, like pigeons, comes with the territory. One could, and did, gripe about it but one had to accept it. It’s in the contract.

But now, driving into Chicago after a month or so in the ‘burbs, I find the traffic unbearable!

“How can you live here?” I find myself thinksaying. Whoops! That’s exactly what I used to hear from urban outsiders. Oh no!

Am I becoming the opposite of who I’ve been? Am I becoming a Bizarro-Jimmy? (Those hip to old Superman comics will know what I mean by that terminology.)

If some hot summer day in August, after I’ve mowed the lawn, I find myself with hose in hand and a bucket of soapy water by my feet, washing my car in the driveway, I will know that the huge seed pod has opened and my inner invasion is complete.


Editor’s Note: Jim’s last post for The Third City was Hose Your Daddy



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Randolph Street: Blue Lady & Friends

June 15th, 2018


jonranargentina1Too tired to talk…



You talkin’ to me?



Blue lady…


All photos © Jon Randolph


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Grabowski: Making A Wish

June 15th, 2018

My work week finished Friday afternoon with a coffee and cake break to celebrate the April employee birthdays, including that of our 71-year-old company co-founder. I went from this immediately into a meeting with a roomful of PhDs  where we discussed the performance limitations of steel in a specific industry, debated if we could design something better and if there was money to be made. 

I shut down my laptop and rushed to grab everything I needed for my trip to a conference the following Monday morning where I was presenting on advanced metallic alloys for Additive Manufacturing and had arranged two full days of side meetings. 

That evening my wife and I took the kids on the bus to Borelli’s for pizza.   

We passed the Quinciñera shops in Albany Park with brightcolored and sparkly dresses in the windows that always make my fiveyearold daughter, Coraline, smile.   

I’d only been to Borelli’s once before, several years ago for Johnny’s birthday, and I recalled it being family friendly, like a pub I would imagine in Dublin. 

And it was. The back room filled with table and arcade games, dirty toys, and a mini singleseat Ferris Wheel that had a steady stream of kids waiting to pay a quarter for the ride. Rambunctious boys were taking turns hitting ping pong balls against their bare backs and screaming while standing in front of a sign that read “No Yelling.  

There were no parents back there except for us. They were all up front sipping their BYO drinks while strategically and blissfully avoiding the madness. 

We put the kids to bed later than normal that night, and after awhile tossing and turning in her dark room, Coraline came down into the basement and asked me Daddy, can you see stars in the sky tonight?”  

I said I didn’t know but suggested we go check. 

We went onto the back porch and she excitedly pointed out a few stars and said, “Wait. Wait. I forgot how it goes……Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may I wish I might. Have this wish I wish tonight. 

Daddy, I wished for a real unicorn with wings, what did you wish for?” 

I wished that you live a long and happy life.” 

Without missing a beat she responded, Daddy…..you don’t have to waste a wish on that, because you already know I’m going to have one.” 

She’s more quick-witted than I, and I like her optimism. 

Editor’s Note: Grabowski’s last post for The Third City was Snake Camp

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Randolph Street: You Lookin’ At Me?

June 13th, 2018



2Green Island, Iowa




4Vicksburg, Mississippi


Hiway 61Duluth, Minnesota


All photos © Jon Randolph


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